The annual ‘Disappointment of the Year’ article, 2011

December 30, 2011, Author: The TIMJ Team

This year, we’re doing things back to front. We’re going to get the bile out of the way first, have our writers tell you about the games that disappointed them the most this year, and then end 2011 on a more positive note tomorrow.

So, which games let us down? What surprise selections are list? Don’t forget to let us know yours in the comments below!

Rikki Wortman (Staff Writer) – Rift
This may be a slight bit biased, as I’m an MMO fanboy, but Rift was definitely the sour taste in the mouth of 2011. The first thing it got wrong was to over-estimate its place in the genre, taking on the gigantic World of Warcraft with a slogan “This isn’t Azeroth any more”, implying that Rift’s universe was going to be a much better place.

It wasn’t. With boring, ironic locations, stereotypes as far as you could throw an elf, confusing character trees with no explanation, static areas that bored players to tears and community/guild options we’ve seen time again, it’s not a surprise that Rift’s 1 million starting players very rapidly dwindled to half that. It still attempts to cling on, but with little hope. I’m still ashamed I took a month from WoW to pay for it.

Paddy X (Community Manager) – Brink
Oh, how vocal I was to all who would listen about how this was to be a game-changer for the industry and would surprise people. Well, it surprised people all right, because what we got was not what we were promised.

I and many others lapped up all the hyperbole from the developer’s mouths without considering for one moment they were maybe glossing over the realities of what they could (and would) deliver.

What we received was a broken and unfinished game, with the slimest of single-player story-lines; it’s grandiose ideas sadly sullied and buried beneath a virtual unplayable mess.

I still admire the idea of the dystopia they intended to create, I’m just sad I didn’t get to experience it.

Trent Pyro (Staff Writer) – Duke Nukem Forever
After playing this at Gadget Show Live 2011 I was considerably excited to see how the old dog would handle the 21st century. Like an old dog, it seems.

Duke Forever’s problems are myriad, but the biggest one for me is the lack of considered progression and modernisation that’s gone into it. We all expected Duke’s trademark humour; a heady mix of light-hearted mysoginism and bull-headed arrogance. We didn’t expect it to feel so unnecessarily over-the-top and badly implemented. Video-game humour has come a long way, so far that Duke’s brand feels tasteless and crude in comparison. While chucking shit around a toilet may have raised a laugh in 1995, in 2011 it seems pathetic and childish. Duke has aged about as well as Jim Davidson.

The game itself plays like a car-crash of the old and new, mixing sketchy and cheap FPS combat with modern-ish graphics and mechanics. Zooming and regenerating health are in but so is getting shot from every angle, enemies spawning behind you and shit-awful checkpointing. It fails to do justice to both time periods and generally fails to be an enjoyable game at all. The king is dead and the blood is on Gearbox’s hands.

Andy Corrigan (Editor in Chief/Owner) – L.A. Noire
Okay, most would probably list technically terrible games here, so I’m expecting Duke Nukem Forever to feature at least a couple of times. The thing is, that didn’t disappoint me; I expected it to be terrible, and it was.

L.A. Noire is my choice. I agree that it’s a very technically sound title, not the worst by a long shot, but the one that disappointed me the most. Yes, the technology behind the game was amazing. Yes, it was a new and unique experience to try and read a character’s facial expressions and body language, as was it to investigate crime scenes, but it needed more.

The story, in spite of what initially appeared to be grown up and enthralling, it only served to let me down come the end. There’s no denying that Cole was a complex character and his personal journey was excellent, but the game teased bigger revelations. It left you expecting a puppet master or major event of some sort, one that had a hand in everything you had done; tying it together and shaking everything you thought you knew. Instead it went nowhere and ended with a flat whimper, leaving loose ends and providing zero closure.

Phil Ubee (Staff Writer) – Call of Juarez: The Cartel
Call of Juarez: The Cartel is just about the worst game I’ve played this generation, never mind this year. Not only is it graphically on a par with a steaming pile of turd, but the gameplay is a repetitive process of “shootout, move to new area, shootout, repeat”!

To top it off, if you are standing right next to an NPC but facing the other way you wont hear a word they say and in a final sign of the crass, cheap attitude throughout, there is an achievement for watching a computer generated pole dancer strut her stuff. Awful!

Matt James (Staff Writer) – L.A. Noire
L.A. Noire is my disappointment of the year. I actually loved playing it and finished it in three days after playing it solidly. However, in retrospect, this was because I was desperate to say that I’ve finished it (also, I think that GAME were doing some trade in offer if you traded in Noire within a fortnight).

The promise of reacting to characters’ facial features was a big let down. Too often I thought that my suspect was lying due to his eyes looking shiftily to the left, only to find out I was wrong and have to restart my interview with the exact same question!

The plot did little to engage me too. Rockstar haven’t, Vice City aside possibly, ever been narrative experts but GTA hasn’t ever really needed thick plot with the enticing gameplay on offer. Noire, with a hugely GTA feel about it, needed a stronger plot with many more twists and turns. I felt, from the very outset, that I knew how the game would pan out and end. Apart from my erratic interviewing of suspects, I was right!

Michael Charge (Staff Writer) – Brink
It shows just how good this year has been when my disappointment of the year is a game that I thoroughly enjoyed playing through.

Brink, Splash Damage’s latest game, is a game where I enjoy the gameplay style, the back story, the characteristic art and the sound, but somehow it just felt disappointing. I loved the close matches I played in co-op. I love sitting down and making a character in the editor. I love making stupid guns in the customisation.

Personally, I blame a series of mistakes made during the game’s release; dodgy net code at launch, crappy bots, its non-appearance on Steam during its launch month and some marketing mistakes. It is truly a shame that a game with so much potential kind of failed at its first step.

Ray Willmott (Site Manager) – Dragon Age II
After all this time, perhaps I demand too much from Bioware. Perhaps my expectations have reached a point no game developer in the world can ever attain. Then again, I know I would have been satisfied by a level of quality I know the company have achieved in the past. Sadly, I did not find that with Dragon Age II. Origins is one of my all-time favourite RPGs, it had the Bioware stamp of excellence on it, and was a world so rich with content, character and quality that I fully indulged in it.

Yet, Dragon Age II seemed to lack all of those qualities. Instead of a wide-open world, I was restricted to Kirkwall and its slight surrounding area. I found the characters to be a mish-mash of meh, and the storyline a political bore. While the combat was improved, and some of the new concepts fresh, the game just didn’t resonate with me. I struggled to make it all the way through to its conclusion. The first time I can say that of any Bioware game in over a decade.

Jesper Hauerslev (Staff Writer) – RAGE
It looked good, sounded good and even played good and yet, for all its hype, potential and pedigree, RAGE squandered it all away. The story and setting was riddled with all the worst clichés, the characters were hollow and you never even got to fight the main bad guy.

RAGE might have looked good on paper back in 2007 when id Software started designing it but it was outdone and outshined twice before it was even released by Fallout 3 and Borderlands. Rather then admit defeat and change its tune, RAGE arrived too late to its own party and while it wore the sexiest dress of them all, there just wasn’t much underneath the skirt to make you want to start a serious relationship.

Stephen King (Staff Writer) – Duke Nukem Forever
I can’t think of a time when I have ever been more disappointed by a game in my life. I remember when the announcement was made stating that the fabled game was actually to be released. A massive shock to the system, considering the game had been in development a hell for longer than a decade. Even better was that it was to be brought to light by the visionaries behind Borderlands.

Sadly, what was released was a first person shooter that would probably have been out of date at the time the first Halo was released. Combine that with a sense of humour that I apparently stopped subscribing to when I was seven-years-old, and you have a soul-destroying experience.

I can only hope that Gearbox bought into this to get a hold of the license and not because they saw potential in the product. Getting this in your Xmas stocking is somewhere along the same line as getting a lump of coal; only it won’t burn quite as well.

James Sheppard (Reviews Editor) – The 3DS
For years now I’ve been disillusioned with Nintendo, despite being a devout fanboy in my youth. What started gradually with the DS and snowballed with the Wii was their focus towards casual gamers. This alone isn’t the end of the world for me, as I can often enjoy quality casual titles, but there’s arguably been far too much shovelware and not enough juicy gaming goodness from the Big N lately.

In blind faith I trusted them with the release of the 3DS; I really did. ‘Perhaps they’ll win me over again’, I thought. I hate to say it, but I was so, so wrong. Not only was its launch plagued with mediocre games, the majority of which were ports from other consoles, some really awful mistakes started to rear their ugly heads. The initially absent features, rubbish online integration, lack of a second analogue stick and dreadful battery life were all condemned. Even the entire concept of the console itself, its 3D visual effect, was poorly received.

Ever since, there’s been a frantic back-pedalling from Ninty to try and correct their misguided design decisions, and refocus marketing strategy, topped off with a hefty and practically unheard of RRP-slashing.

Neil Hughes (Site Manager) – Dead Island
Could a game really live up to the hype of the infamous trailer? Probably not, and unfortunately I felt I was left with a mediocre open-world hack and slash zombie game that had me feeling a little underwhelmed. It’s what many have called a “marmite” experience.

There have been much worse games out this year for sure, but nothing promised me so much and let me down so heavily as Dead Island did in 2011. Maybe zombies have become so passé after years of overkill?

My trip to the island of Banoi was made worse by being stuck with lazy and annoying characters who deserved to be left as zombie food, so this is one package holiday from hell I won’t be returning too and it isn’t because of the zombies but the bugs wont be missed either.

Wish you were here… instead of me.